After one day, the trial of Gu Kailai, a once-prominent lawyer and wife of a formerly powerful politician, Bo Xilai, is over. Gu is accused of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood on November 13 in Chongqing, the southwestern Chinese city once run by her husband. Also on trial is Zhang Xiaojun, a family employee who is said to have assisted Gu in poisoning Heywood.
Heywood’s death was initially reported as due to a heart attack. But, after four months, Bo’s “right-hand man,” police chief Wang Lijun, sought refuge at a US consulate where he allegedly spoke of murder and a massive cover-up. Bo, who had been considered a likely contender for a top spot in China’s Communist Party at a time when it is preparing to install a new slate of leaders, was sacked from his post in March and is under investigation for unspecified “disciplinary violations.” He, his wife and Zhang have not been seen in public since their arrests in April.
Gu’s Trial Held Over 600 Miles From Where Heywood Was Killed
Two British diplomats were allowed to attend the trial but no foreign media were given access. The trial was not held in Chongqing or in Beijing; had it been held in China’s capital, it would have been a “high-profile political case,” as François Godement, a Chinese politics expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said to the Associated Press in the Guardian.
Instead, the trial was held in Hefei, a relatively obscure industrial city that is the capital of eastern Anhui province, which is 600 miles south of Beijing and even farther from Chongqing. Residents interviewed expressed ignorance of Gu’s identity or may have been wary of talking about the trial to foreigners. Legal analysts noted to the New York Times that at least three powerful figures have ties to Anhui province including the president of the Supreme People’s Court, Wang Shengjun, as well as President Hu Jintao and Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who is a likely candidate for future premier.
Gu Was Last Seen In Public In April
Gu is said to have confessed to the charges against her and she and Zhang “did not raise objections to the facts and the charges of intentional homicide,” according to a statement read by court official Tang Yigan. The statement also said that Gu and Heywood were involved in a business dispute that “threatened the personal safety of her son… and [she] decided to kill him.” At the trial, the New York Times notes that a three-minute CCTV segment of Gu showed her smiling but that “her face appeared bloated, and a family member expressed shock, saying her appearance had changed dramatically since they had last met.”
Tang also said that Gu was “emotionally frail.” The report that she feared for the safety of her son, Bo Guagua — a recent graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard who had gained notoriety for his extravagant and pampered lifestyle, and whom Heywood had helped gain entrance into a British boarding school — could be a mitigating circumstance, meaning that she might not receive the death penalty.
Photo by helga tawil souri
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